Mark Twain made many interesting observations. “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning,” Twain once advised, “and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Twain wasn’t talking about breakfast. He was imparting wisdom to his readers by telling them to tackle unpleasant tasks, first. Meet your biggest challenges right away and the rest of the day will seem like a breeze in comparison. This is good advice for anyone, but it’s an especially important piece of advice on how to succeed in the financial business.
Think of those daunting tasks, big decisions, or dreaded phone conversations you’ve been putting off. These should be addressed first thing in the morning to remove the nagging dread they will inspire for the remainder of the work day. It’s not just the difficult tasks a financial advisor should tackle, first, but also things requiring a lot of attention and focus. Taking advantage of the brain’s peak performance periods and directing focus toward financial planning produces results for clients and the team. Financial advisors can use this first hour to make decisions and perform analytical work when they are sharp, rested, and relaxed. This time could be devoted to researching new investment opportunities, implementing new marketing strategies, or reaching out to clients who need some attention.
“Successful people understand the importance of having control over their mornings and know how to use that time wisely,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job. “These people are able to weed out the noise in their first hour and focus on what matters.”
Productivity experts recommend avoiding email first thing in the morning. If there is some pressing or urgent matter that needs attention, you’ll get a call or a text. Until then, stay focused and check email messages later. This doesn’t mean personal emails or social media either. This means business emails. Personal messages can wait. Unless, of course, answering a particular email is the frog you need to eat. Otherwise, prioritize, and do it later. If you find yourself being pulled to the email, the trick is to glance at it, not get bogged down in stuff that doesn’t matter or can keep for later in the day.
Devoting the first hour to tasks requiring a lot of our energy is something which should be done every day. Financial planning requires focus and that focus is greatly enhanced by sticking to a routine. The routine of a financial advisor should include what self-help guru Tony Robbins calls the “Hour of Power.” The first hour of Monday morning is a big one. This time can be used to set a productivity goal for the week. It can be used to plan out a schedule and get organized.
“Everyone has their unique method of prioritizing,” Taylor says. “But all successful people stay focused when they start their day, and with years of practice, they realize that many things can wait, and others cannot.”
Need some ideas on how to use the first hour wisely? Business Insider offers these tips:
They step back and reflect. Taylor says it’s important to take a moment to look at the big picture. “It’s easy to jump in and ‘just do it’ when you get to work, but successful people look at their larger goals in order to better prioritize.”
They strategize. Successful people take a few minutes at the start of their workday to think about where their career or business should be going, says Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. “Few people spend much time on these questions to begin with, let alone when their brains are fresh. Pursuing strategic clarity, however, is a worthy objective. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.”
They check and update their To-do lists and calendars. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself first thing in the morning, but it’s important you take a quick look at your to-do list and calendar to know what’s ahead. Missing any early meetings or deadlines would likely cause stress and could ruin your entire day.
They acknowledge and plan for the tough projects. There are always difficult projects looming that get put aside. “Address how you’re going to attack them, first thing, so they don’t hang over your head all day,” Taylor says.
They don’t address “people conflict.” Successful people know timing is everything. If you need to resolve conflict, don’t engage first thing, Taylor says.
They write something requiring thought. Writing requires discipline and research finds willpower is at its peak early in the day, after a good breakfast, Vanderkam says. The first hour of the day can be a great time to write a well-crafted email to a new client or prospect, a proposal or report, marketing materials, etc.
They greet the team. Good, successful bosses and employees are aware of their team and they take the time to greet them first thing. “It shows compassion and naturally builds rapport and camaraderie,” Taylor says. “This is the first hour of their day, too, and your actions have a significant impact on their attitude and productivity.”
They avoid distraction. The latest headline or office drama can cause anyone to be distracted, no matter how high up the chain you are. “While the curiosity can be overwhelming, focused professionals inherently know when they’re taking themselves off-track,” Taylor says.
They don’t hold meetings. “I’d say the most important thing to not do during that first hour is hold a meeting, unless it requires every ounce of focus and concentration you have,” Vanderkam says. “It’s better to put meetings at low energy times (mid-afternoon for many people), and do projects that require focus at high-energy times when you feel most motivated to tackle them. Most people feel more energized and motivated in the morning.”
They relax. This one is difficult for most people, but successful individuals understand the importance of creating a few minutes of peace before jumping in. This is where Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power comes in: contemplative breathing, uplifting exercise, creating/repeating incantations to guide you through the day, and giving thanks. “It helps you better approach the issues at hand,” Taylor says.
Remember, this is the first hour of your work day. The first hour after you get out of bed in the morning is yours. Use it for a workout, for coffee, reading, meditation, or a bit of family time. For financial advisors, the first hour of the workday is for clients and for work. That’s how advisors succeed in the financial business.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group, RCS Capital Corporation’s (NYSE: RCAP) retail investment advice platform.
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